HBCUs Have a Duty to Promote Racial Justice
Historically Black Colleges are not Necessarily Safe Spaces for Black Students
The prevailing thought in the Black community is that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are safe spaces where Black students get a perhaps once-in-a-lifetime chance to not be a marginalized minority; to experience a discrimination-free higher education; and to be treated as a human-being, as opposed to struggling through the typical “learning-while-Black” experience. This feel-good image of HBCUs was somewhat diminished following two racially-charged incidents at the end of 2022.
Winston-Salem State University
The most recent racialized incident took place in December 2022 at Winston-Salem State University, a historically Black college in North Carolina. It involved Black student, Leilla Hamoud and non-Black History professor, Cynthia Villagomez, who got into an argument about an assignment. The police were called, allegedly by a second professor, which resulted in Hamoud being arrested. Some of the video footage shows Villagomez, with a white professor, holding hands in a defiant “us against them” fashion, illustrating the underlying racial tension.
Tennessee State University
Prior to the case at Winston-Salem State, another racially-charged confrontation was captured on video in November 2022, this time, at a different HBCU — Tennessee State University. In the video, Robert Pickard, a white History professor is seen aggressively shouting at a Black student. In what appears to be a hate-filled rage, Pickard gets right in the student’s face, showing no respect for personal space.